Category Archives: Charbono / Bonarda

Nieto Senetiner 2013 Bonarda (Charbono)

Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina; 13% ABV
$5 (I think) at the Richmond, CA, store some weeks ago.  No longer there.

After being open a couple hours, the wine shows soft, ripe, tangy, fruit of black raspberry / almost blackberry, dark cherry, purple plum / pit, violets / licorice, wood / coffee, with somewhat zingy acid of hibiscus tea and mild, chewy tannin on the finish.  It’s not a must-have, but it’s a quite good New World wine for the price.  It would make a good stand-in for Zinfandel.

The next day, the last bit in the glass was redder and more acid.  It was still pretty tasty, but it’s probably better consumed the first day.

This is one of many wines I bought before and while I was not drinking.  Please bear with me while I work through this backlog.


ottoVini 2013 Rosso

Piemonte, Italy; 13.5% ABV
68% Dolcetto, 8% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon,  6% Barbera, 4% Freisa, 4% Bonarda, 1% Albarossa, 1% Syrah
From Dezzani and imported by 8Vini
$7 at the Point Loma (San Diego) store on 10/1/15

ottoVini_Rosso_PiemonteDOCPopped and poured through a Vinturi and tasted right after being poured into a decanter, this wine opens on the tight side but with some nice, smooth ripe fruit (definitely the Dolcetto) and acid coming through. It was very closed on opening and certainly needed some time for its flavors to emerge.

Returning to it 30 minutes in, the wine began to open up pretty nicely revealing a pleasant underlying, if soft, tone of the Dolcetto with a touch of that ripeness I associate with Rossos, which I don’t tend to hold in that high of regard having just finished a two week trip in Italy. I find them on the simpler end of the spectrum but it seems that they are certainly created (and priced) for every day drinking. To that end, I would say this is a pretty successful little bottle. The wine really showed best about 2 hours in when some of the alcohol blew off. I’m very sensitive to heat and it really came together well for me then.

What complexity the wine lacks is made up for by a pretty nice overall balance of sweet (but not saccharin) fruit, the smooth mouthfeel that I associate with Rossos, soft tannins and a touch of acidity to bring things all together. I found this best on day one since the only other day I opened it (to finish) was on Day 3 (after being stoppered in the original bottle). Tasting it now, it has come apart mostly and could potentially be mistaken for any California designated (likely Central Valley) red wine, so don’t wait as long as I did. Even now, however, there is something very much Italian about it. I think it is in the finish with the tannins holding on as the wine fades even as it has sat untouched for 2 days.

If you’re unfamiliar with Italian reds or have someone to enjoy the wine with who might, say, normally find themselves attracted to middle of the road softer, sweeter Merlots, I would recommend this bottle. It sits well with me for what it is, a relatively simple, transparent wine that is enjoyable without any major flaws. Drinkable.

After some sleuthing, I found a fact sheet here for what is essentially the same wine:


Zolo 2012 “Gaucho Select” Bonarda

Mendoza, Argentina; 13.8% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 15 Sept

Zolo_2012_BonardaThis wine is pretty tasty from first pour, but gets downright delicious after about 45 minutes of air.  It shows somewhat tangy and earthy, dark red / medium purple fruit of cherry / plum, grape, and raspberry, and a little aromatic spice.  Although not strongly structured, the taste is nicely delineated.  It made me think that this is what you drink while waiting for the Las Huertas Cabernet to air.  🙂

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) was more simple, acid, and robust, still very flavorful and yummy, tasting more of blackberry / tar, and reminding me a good bit of Petite Sirah.  IMO, although you shouldn’t think of aging it, this is a heck of a bottle for $4.

La Puerta Alta Bonarda 2009 $5.99

Produced and bottled by: Valle de la Puerta S.A. SRV $20
ABV 13.5%
Purchased: Lebanon OR GO 6-20-2015

FullSizeRenderBonarda is a new varietal for me so of course I had to do some research. I linked a site that gives a basic overview if you are interested. One thing of note, pointed out on the above page, “Bonarda…is used mainly to make fruity, medium-bodied bulk wines with low tannins…” and I found that to be true with this wine. Another reviewer found it to be heavy bodied so I’m linking that too…as a comparison.

Upon opening, fruity & floral aromas permeated the kitchen. It’s a very fragrant wine.

Color: Dark, but not inky, red (cork-composite)
Body: medium and surprisingly smooth. Easily quaffable.
Taste: Dry. Cherry, currant (couldn’t decide if I was leaning more towards red or black), lavender, a bit of grape jolly rancher, lightly spiced…mild to moderate alcohol heat. Very low tannin. Low oak presence for those that prefer not to notice it…just barely evident in the spices. The bottom of the bottle had quite a bit of debris in it.

After being open for about 4 hrs, the wine was a little more earthy and had a fragrance (but not taste) of raisins/prunes. I liked it…really unusual one for me but I did enjoy it. It morphed very quickly IMO so I wouldn’t call it a cellar candidate.

Not very complex but it is nice to find another wine with no unpleasant surprises…simple but enjoyable. Easily recommended as a summer red…being dry and not at all heavy or cloying.  While the reviewers (linked above) may not agree on the tastes, we all seem to rate it about the same (85points to me is a daily drinker-esque wine).

I know we are all looking for that next amazing G.O. wine…this isn’t it, but it is a decent every day drinker.

2008 Bodega Uno Malbec – Bonarda

60% Malbec, 40% Bonarda (Charbono); 13.1% ABV
Mendoza, Argentina
$4 at the Berkeley, CA store on 14 April

2008_BodegaUno_BonardaMalbecI wasn’t that excited about the 2008 Bodega Uno unblended Bonarda that appeared at the same time for a dollar less.  However, the majority Malbec in this wine is more substantial and nicely complements the Bonarda.  I thought this was pretty good for the price.

The Malbec showed characteristic flavors of purple grape, plum and boysenberry, distinct from but complementing the soft texture and lighter red flavors of the Bonarda.  Smooth, fruity and mildly tangy, gently earthy.  Not earth-shatteringly complex or powerful, but a pleasantly tasty glass of wine for the money.

2011 Solombra Bonarda – Malbec

Bonarda (Charbono) 60%, Malbec 40%; 13% ABV
Famatina Valley, La Rioja, Argentina, Fair Trade Certified by Transfair USA
$3 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 18 March, 2013.  Don’t recall that it’s still there.

2011_Solombra_BonardaMalbecRegular readers know I’m (probably overly) concerned about airing time, but here I didn’t have to worry.  This wine is delicious from the first pour.

It does get a little darker with some air, showing ripe flavors of blackberry, boysenberry, black raspberry, with some coffee / chocolate / caramel.  It has some supporting acid and tannin, but it’s a little fresh-juicy and unstructured for my taste.  Still, it is undeniably yummy, especially for the price.

Talmage 2007 Pija red ($5)

50% Syrah, 25% Petite Sirah, 25% Charbono; CA, 14.5% ABV
Purchased 1/21/2013 at the Oakland, CA store

Talmage 2007 PijaA good year for California reds, a mention of French oak and native yeasts on the label, and a significant fraction of Charbono made this one interesting enough to grab. Starts with a rich, thick Syrah color and nose of plum and a touch of pepper, some blueberry from the Petite; not sure I can identify any Charbono contribution except perhaps the zippy acidity and dark color, although all these varietals are known for heavy skin coloration. Pleasant if simple aroma and full, almost fat, fruit flavor – a lotta fruit (perhaps Charbono is contributing, remembering that a few of the Argentinian examples I’ve had reminded me of a Beaujolais from Bordeaux). The acidity nicely balances the sweet fruit, and the tannin is smooth, but the palate finishes hot. Overall, it comes across as kind of an unbalanced blend due to the heat and a kind of watery middle, which is surprising given the apparent extract. It’s also somewhat monolithic; perhaps age or air time might open it up, but we opened it at a dinner party, where it was finished without complaint or much praise, so I’ll never know, and I don’t care much. D- because it should have been a better wine.

Bodega Uno, Dos, Tres

2008 Bodega Uno Bonarda ($3)
100% Bonarda; 13.5% alc.

2008 Bodega Uno Sangiovese ($4)
100% Sangiovese; 13% alc.

2008 Bodega Uno Tempranillo “Roble – oak aged” ($4)
100% Tempranillo; 14.2% alc.

Mendoza, Argentina
Samples at the Berkeley, CA store*

I had not tried a Bodega Uno product before now, but BargainWhine liked their Torrontés-Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese from the same vintage, and these three bottles appeared on the odds & ends rack at low prices, so why not?

Popped n’ poured, the Bonarda is a clear dark purple with a moderately intense nose of sweet blueberry, Concord grape jelly, and black raspberry jam. The palate presents the same fruit flavors in a medium-full-bodied format with somewhat sharp tannins and a bracing but ripe acidity, balanced by the sweetness of ripe fruit (full disclosure: I had just eaten an artichoke, which makes things seem sweeter). On the second day, the nose had faded a bit and the palate softened; although I can’t say it improved, it was still enjoyable. This unoaked, fruit-forward wine is something like a big Beaujolais with a somewhat different flavor profile, which is not I expected given that Bonarda is apparently another name for Charbono, a grape that makes big, tannic monster wines in California. Thumbs up; worth a try for the novelty factor alone.

The Sangiovese was a slightly lighter shade of reddish purple, with a pretty if somewhat light and simple nose of black cherry and blackberry – no wood, earth, funk or leather like typical Italian examples of the grape. The palate is soft and simple, with a short finish. The tannins are restrained, and there is an appropriate balance of acidity and black cherry fruit, with a respectable if not impressive amount of body and flavor depth. A decent example of a “drink-now” New World style of this grape, although just marginally identifiable as such. Thumbs up as it’s a pleasant beverage, but not a repeat buy for me even at $4.

The Tempranillo was opened at a dinner party, so we didn’t give it a proper tasting, but I took some notes afterward. The nose opens with bright pie cherries and a healthy lashing of toasty oak, which comes across a bit rough. The palate is balanced if not striking, with somewhat simple cherry/berry flavors and soft tannins. This wine was fairly rich and smooth and varietally identifiable, but it didn’t give me quite the satisfaction I’ve found with many of the Spanish tempranillos we’ve been getting lately at GO. An hour or two or a day of breathing may have helped, but it wasn’t around long enough to find out. Nobody at the table complained about it, and it was glugged down rapidly enough, with a couple of “it’s nice” comments, but no one regarded it as a memorable wine either. Thumbs up with the caveat that this may be a better wine than I’m relating here; I would be willing to try it again in a more focused tasting session.

*These bottles were apparently leftover salesman’s samples, so the prices and availability may differ, when and if they decide to buy any.